There is poverty in Samoa

■ Eating on fruits and lazing around under palm trees - this kind of idyll is probably only dream of whites, saturated with consumption. Most residents of Western Samoa, on the other hand, have to move abroad, mostly to New Zealand, in order to use the money earned there to ensure more than the bare survival of their countrymen.

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JOHANN BERNHARDT

A monotonous voice can be heard on the radio. Unmoved and emotionless, she lists the names. Whether in private houses, public buildings, in bars or in taxis - people listen eagerly, hoping to hear their own name. Apia, the capital of Western Samoa, is caught in a frantic hustle and bustle. It is early morning and most people start work. Some of them can approach the day calmly - as long as their name was on the radio. In this case, she is expecting a cash transfer from an overseas relative. American - Samoa, the USA, Australia and New Zealand - many Samoans emigrated to these countries, originally in the hope of finding work, income and savings as a basis for later setting up a business at home. Even a low wage in the countries mentioned allows, in addition to saving, to feed the backward members of the extended family.

Samoa is isolated in the endless expanse of the Pacific Basin. It does not have any natural resources that would be beneficial in foreign trade. The country is considered one of the poorest among the poor. The tropical climate and the abundance of fish in the sea, however, allow the Samoans little labor to ensure their survival. Further needs cannot be satisfied on this basis. And yet - while the people pursue a stress-free economy for their own needs and live in open huts under roofs covered with palm leaves, the car, television or video recorder are part of the equipment in many Aigas (large families). The number one export good makes it possible: In 1988 the article “Arbeitsskraft” made up around 70 percent of Samoa's income from the export business. More than 80 percent of this money was generated in New Zealand before it contributed to increasing general consumption levels in Western Samoa.

A few months ago, Tapa, 18 years old, was still living in his homeland - one of 150,000 inhabitants in Western Samoa. He lived on fruits and taro tubers that he grew himself. His clothing consisted of a lava-lava bast skirt, and he slept on a self-made mat in the open hut. Today he lives in New Zealand, wears a fashionable jacket and high-heeled shoes. He does not understand the foreign language, but hopes to find a job as soon as possible and, in his lost state, confides in the Samoan community for the time being. Around a third of all Samoans (62,000) live far from home in New Zealand. Here they make up 50 percent of the entire island population and make a not inconsiderable contribution to the new appearance of Auckland, the largest Polynesian city in the world.

Fast changeover and adaptation is the order of the day for Tapa. His relatives assure him that this would not be a problem for Samoans and that he would certainly not be able to do it either. He not only looks at the strange Palangi society with a curious, sometimes uncomprehending look. The Samoan world is also not quite as it was at home in the new environment. The villages and their familiar structures are missing. The traditional large families still stick together, but this solidarity is slowly being lost. Both parents work, possibly overtime, often in shifts. They see themselves and their children only irregularly. Their authority fades as their absence accumulates. Relatives at home, the obligation to donate for weddings, funerals and the maintenance of the church, rent and installment payments - they all require regular income and the greatest possible work effort. The elderly accept the pressure to donate because they are still involved in the traditions. Younger Samoans, especially those born in New Zealand, run the risk of conflict if they are asked for cash benefits for the schooling of their relatives back home, where they actually wanted to get a car.

apa is shocked by the many young compatriots, united in gangs, caught in theft and involved in acts of violence. He lacks the familiarity of the village, the presence of parents and family, the organizing hand of the village head. In New Zealand the Church has replaced the old authorities. The pastor is the head here, but his influence on the youth is limited. Although he organizes youth and cricket clubs, young mothers' meetings and community festivals, he can hardly prevent the influence of western civilization on the young Samoans.

Not all young people are still bilingual, their connection to home and to the community is slowly being lost. More than other islanders, Samoans seem suited and eager to adapt to seek professional success in the Palangi society.

And while Tapa will initially do unpleasant work in a factory that is strange to him, feel trapped in the belly of this huge metal fish and neither understand the workers nor the work processes, it could be that he will soon orient himself to his more successful compatriots. Overcoming the adjustment difficulties will be his next goal, even if he has to give up a piece of his identity and replace it with foreign elements.

The contact with family, Samoan friends and the community will give him the necessary support to survive in the new environment. He lives in two worlds. Soon he will be able to move in both, but not completely belong to either. He no longer thinks about going back home. Only the thoughts and the payment instructions regularly make their way there.